puzzle

verb
puz·​zle | \ ˈpə-zəl \
puzzled; puzzling\ ˈpə-​zə-​liŋ , ˈpəz-​liŋ \

Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to offer or represent to (someone) a problem difficult to solve or a situation difficult to resolve : challenge mentally also : to exert (oneself, one's mind, etc.) over such a problem or situation they puzzled their wits to find a solution
2 archaic : complicate, entangle
3 : to solve with difficulty or ingenuity puzzle out an answer to a riddle

intransitive verb

1 : to be uncertain as to action or choice
2 : to attempt a solution of a puzzle by guesswork or experiment puzzle over the mystery

puzzle

noun

Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the state of being puzzled : perplexity
2a : something that puzzles
b : a question, problem, or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from puzzle

Verb

puzzler \ ˈpə-​zə-​lər , ˈpəz-​lər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for puzzle

Verb

puzzle, perplex, bewilder, distract, nonplus, confound, dumbfound mean to baffle and disturb mentally. puzzle implies existence of a problem difficult to solve. the persistent fever puzzled the doctor perplex adds a suggestion of worry and uncertainty especially about making a necessary decision. a behavior that perplexed her friends bewilder stresses a confusion of mind that hampers clear and decisive thinking. a bewildering number of possibilities distract implies agitation or uncertainty induced by conflicting preoccupations or interests. distracted by personal problems nonplus implies a bafflement that makes orderly planning or deciding impossible. the remark left us utterly nonplussed confound implies temporary mental paralysis caused by astonishment or profound abasement. the tragic news confounded us all dumbfound suggests intense but momentary confounding; often the idea of astonishment is so stressed that it becomes a near synonym of astound. was at first too dumbfounded to reply

Noun

mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle mean something which baffles or perplexes. mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation. the mystery of the stone monoliths problem applies to a question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing concern. problems created by high technology enigma applies to utterance or behavior that is very difficult to interpret. his suicide remains an enigma riddle suggests an enigma or problem involving paradox or apparent contradiction. the riddle of the reclusive pop star puzzle applies to an enigma or problem that challenges ingenuity for its solution. the thief's motives were a puzzle for the police

Examples of puzzle in a Sentence

Verb

The cause of the accident has puzzled investigators. it is the cause of the disease that puzzles doctors

Noun

a book of puns, riddles, and puzzles the final fate of the colonists at Roanoke remains a puzzle to this very day
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

What’s really puzzling, though, is that in the most recent standoff, the White House was demanding $5 billion for a border wall — a sum that’s not nearly enough to pay for it under any of Trump’s various estimates. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "I’m starting to think Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall," 20 Dec. 2018 Giant footprints puzzle residents,’ a headline in the Humboldt Times announced. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "What happened to coal," 21 Aug. 2018 Yet this impressive-but-puzzling experiment is having an impact on everyone who invests in technology. The Economist, "The impact of Masayoshi Son’s $100bn tech fund will be profound," 10 May 2018 But Robinson's family members on Thursday were puzzled, frustrated and suspicious of the details surrounding his death. Michelle Hunter, NOLA.com, "'No one deserves to lose their life on the street': Family of man who died after JPSO chase," 10 May 2018 Understanding why black soldiers were so much more vulnerable to disease puzzled some white Union doctors, but is stunningly obvious now. Ilene Raymond Rush, Philly.com, "Mutter exhibit recalls how the sacrifices of black Civil War troops advanced medicine," 22 Mar. 2018 This new cold war, combining hostility with deep interdependence, is clearly a puzzling one for the U.S., and disturbing to our stock market. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "What to Do About Huawei?," 11 Dec. 2018 Ace Corey Kluber had his second straight puzzling postseason as the 20-game winner didn’t look like himself in Game 1. Tom Withers, The Seattle Times, "Bitter finish: Indians’ first-round exit leaves sour taste," 9 Oct. 2018 Chairman Rocky Wirtz, who took over the team from his late father, Bill, the season before, moved quickly to reverse the Blackhawks’ longstanding and long-puzzling anti-TV policy by televising a handful of home games on local TV in 2007-08. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, "Blackhawks' biggest loss since '15 Stanley Cup? Almost half their local TV audience," 26 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The other piece of the puzzle is that Skycom was basically Huawei under a different name, according to the prosecutor. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Huawei’s CFO is granted bail by Canadian court but will be closely monitored," 11 Dec. 2018 But after the launch, players always have the option of cheating their way out of an extremely tricky puzzle, something that was decidedly not an option during my pre-release playthrough. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Observations and lessons from two decades of writing about video games," 25 Nov. 2018 That piece of the puzzle can’t be ignored, of course. Emily Farra, Vogue, "The Duo Behind Cesta Collective Is Building a “Next-Gen Sustainable Brand” in Africa," 16 Nov. 2018 The earth’s mantle consists of an interlocking puzzle of tectonic plates. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "Earth’s Crust Is Swallowing Way More Ocean Than We Thought," 15 Nov. 2018 Inclusion, or making employees feel valued and comfortable at work, is a necessary and important piece of the puzzle, said Kathleen Hogan, the company’s human-resources chief. Rachel Lerman, The Seattle Times, "Microsoft sees modest upticks in representation of women, minority employees," 14 Nov. 2018 The origins of the puzzle can be traced back to Albert Einstein. Fox News, "Video from 2011 creates headaches for Sinema," 12 Oct. 2018 Losing the only piece of an incomplete puzzle capable of creating for himself and others would have take the Fire in the complete opposite direction. Juan Pimiento, chicagotribune.com, "Ronaldo's shock transfer, the World Cup semis and the best of the week in soccer," 12 July 2018 For a generation of students that is connected, inclusive and risk-averse, Christian colleges present an interesting puzzle. Laura Pappano, New York Times, "At Christian Colleges, a Collision of Gay Rights and Traditional Values," 5 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'puzzle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of puzzle

Verb

1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for puzzle

Verb

origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about puzzle

Statistics for puzzle

Last Updated

17 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for puzzle

The first known use of puzzle was in 1582

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for puzzle

puzzle

verb

English Language Learners Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to confuse (someone) : to be difficult for (someone) to understand

puzzle

noun

English Language Learners Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

: a question or problem that requires thought, skill, or cleverness to be answered or solved

: something or someone that is difficult to understand

puzzle

verb
puz·​zle | \ ˈpə-zəl \
puzzled; puzzling

Kids Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : confuse sense 1, perplex The mysterious phone call puzzles me.
2 : to solve by thought or by clever guessing She tried to puzzle out the crime.

puzzle

noun

Kids Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a question, problem, or device intended to test skill or cleverness
3 : something that perplexes : mystery

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on puzzle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with puzzle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for puzzle

Spanish Central: Translation of puzzle

Nglish: Translation of puzzle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of puzzle for Arabic Speakers

Comments on puzzle

What made you want to look up puzzle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

tremendous in size, volume, or degree

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!